The US is undoubtedly a spectacular country for national parks, and being Australian, I hope to be able to see some of them for myself within the next couple years. During the time I was reading about some of the famous national parks in America I thought it’d be fun to collect some comments & stories on the national parks people recommend, with the aim of hopefully helping others read up on some of the best national parks and also bringing attention to some great places that others may not have heard of.
Here’s the query I put out on the journalism sites I belong to:
What national park in the USA have you been to and would recommend others visit? What did you like about it? Personal stories welcome. We’re publishing a piece on the best national parks and will publish your submission there.
I also spent a few hours reaching out to some people (travel bloggers) who’ve visited a lot of national parks, and whose input would definitely be valuable. In response, I got some fantastic responses, and I’ve published them below.
To sum them up, here are the places people recommended:
- Olympic National Park (link, link)
- Cabrillo National Monument (link)
- Yellowstone (link)
- Yosemite (link, link, link)
- Lassen National Park (link)
- Joshua Tree National Park (link)
- Badlands National Park (link)
- Saguaro National Park (link)
- Shenandoah National Park (link)
- Arches National Park (link, link)
- North Cascades National Park (link)
- Glacier National Park (link, link, link)
- South Dakota Badlands (link)
- Everglades National Park (link)
- Grand Tetons National Park (link)
- Death Valley National Park (link)
- Bryce Canyon National Park (link, link)
- Zion National Park (link)
- Sequoia National Park (link)
- Acadia National Park (link)
- White Sands National Park (link)
- Grand Canyon National Park (link)
It’s fun to read the comments below, and I really recommend having a read through them — you may find a national park that really piques your interest. Oh, and if you have a national park to recommend or write about, please make a submission! We’re still adding to this piece, and will also be putting photos up shortly.
I'm here to chat about why Olympic National Park is special, and why it should be a part of visitors' bucket lists when it's time to travel again! Here's a little overview for you and I'm happy to answer more questions or provide more information.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK - WASHINGTON STATE
*Favorite Attractions: *Sol Duc Falls, Rialto Beach, Hurricane Ridge, The Hoh Rainforest. One of the most epic hikes to take in the park is to Mount Storm King, which overlooks the beautiful Lake Crescent. https://www.themandagies.com/>https://www.themandagies.com/mount-storm-king/
*What Makes ONP So Special: *The Olympic National Park is one of the few places in the United States where you can experience a temperate rainforest and even camp among it. You can enjoy the forest with moss-covered trees or e en lush fern-lined trails to the wild Washington Coast.
*Traveler Tips:* Embrace nature and go camping! There are so many campgrounds in the park and it's an excellent way to be immersed in the lush Pacific Northwest forest.
*Recommended?* Yes! This park is perfect for families who want to have diverse activities to do with kids, and adventurous couples who wish to venture deep into the hidden gems of the backcountry.
--Emily Mandagie, The Mandagies
I recommend Cabrillo National Monument to visitors coming to San Diego in addition to locals for a variety of reasons. This National Park is named for Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Spanish Explorer who discovered California on September 28, 1542 after arriving through San Diego Bay and setting foot on a small nearby peninsula called Ballast Point. You can visit the park to learn about this period of California's history, but also local happenings in the centuries after that. You'll walk by the historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse (one of eight original lighthouses in the state) that has been restored and refurbished to showcase life in the 1800s. We're a military city so it makes sense that the park is also home to some WWII bunkers that were used as lookouts for enemy ships that could arrive into San Diego Bay. Not to mention, this is one of the best places for photography in town with its spectacular bay and ocean views. Take them in on the family-friendly, 2.5-mile Bayside trail and other small trails around the park. One particularly popular trail leads to some of the best tide pools in San Diego which appear during winter when low tides occur during the day. It's isn't a large National Park but it is a fantastic place to get outside, unplug, and enjoy our famous sunshine. Kids can also earn Junior Ranger badges here, too.
--Katie Dillon, La Jolla Mom
The best national park is the original national park - Yellowstone. Besides being the first national park, it is also enormous. Get away from the crowded geysers and you can find some of the best hiking, spectacular waterfalls, and some of the most striking scenery this country has to offer. Did you know there is a Grand Canyon within Yellowstone? And Mammoth Hot Spings cannot be missed! One of my fondest memories is exploring the park with my father when I was 9. I didn't realize at the time that memory would stay with me for the rest of my life.
--Seth Newton, OutMore
My favorite National Park is Yosemite NP located in California. The park offers something for every visitor to enjoy. There is nothing quite like pulling through Tunnel View and seeing your first view of Yosemite Valley. The breathtaking scenery feels like it is from a fairy tale with Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome and El Capitan in the distance. Visitors can enjoy spending the day slowly meandering through the park and trails or they can head out on a long hike.
Yosemite National Park offers so many great experiences all within one amazing park.
We love that we can stay in the park or stay in Oakhurst, California and drive into the park each day. Yosemite offers something amazing to see 365 days out of the year. While summer is the busiest my favorite time is Fall when the leaves are changing and the park has slowed down a bit.
--John Tillison, Park Ranger John
*Favorite National Park*
Lassen National Park in Redding, California
*What I liked about it*
We set a goal of visiting every National Park in California and to be honest Lassen National Park was not on the top of the list. It's one of the least visited National Parks and the closest city is Redding, California. We were pleasantly surprised and loved our time visiting the park. One of our favorite hikes in the park was the Bumpass Hell trail. At over 9,000 feet above sea level, Bumpass Hell Trail will have you breathing a little harder if you’re not acclimated to the height. Despite this, the 3-mile trail to the boardwalk sulfur pits is worth every step. With stunning views of the vast park along the way, you’ll smell Bumpass before you’ll see.
--Josh Thompson, Dueling Journeys
From an adventure photography perspective, Yosemite National Pak is my number one. From the climbing, backpacking, kayaking, and surrounding area access, it is hard not to love this place. While many fall into the tourist trap of Yosemite Valley or Hetch Hetchy for its easy access and walkable trails. The real magic of Yosemite can't be experienced until you step off the paved paths and into the dirt. Usually, this takes about two miles of walking, but come on that is only two miles! If you are feeling adventurous, strap on your backpack and carry a tent with some food. Once you go roughly 10 miles, you won't see a single person, especially if you are in the northern part of the park!
--Dalton Johnson, daltonjohnsonmedia.com
I recommend Joshua Tree National Park in California.
I visited last September with my girlfriend. It was a warm day, nice and sunny. We arrived there in the afternoon after a long drive from Phoenix. We drove all round the park to see all the different areas and 1 of the highlights was walking in the cholla cactus garden.
We stayed in the park until after sunset and this was the highlight for us, we watched the sunset by a big Joshua Tree. The sky turned an incredible purple and was so serene and quiet in the park. We could of spent the night staring up at the incredible sky while being surrounded by nature.
--Patrick Duane, pdfitness
Badlands National Park is one of our favorite places in the United States, and we consistently recommend it to our guests. It's relatively easy to access from Interstate 90, yet it feels totally uncrowded, even in the peak summer months. The landscape of striated sandy buttes within the park is otherworldly, and there are plenty of easy-access hikes that will take you into the backcountry. Within minutes, it's possible to feel like you're adventuring all alone on an alien planet. During our last visit, we meandered past a herd of wild bison before pitching our tent atop a narrow plateau, where we watched the sunset fade into a spectacular view of the Milky Way. The next morning, we awoke to a herd of bighorn sheep foraging around us. We saw no more than four other people on the entire two-day hike.
--Dustin Floyd, 1899 Inn
I recommend Saguaro National Park. There are light hikes and intense ones, but whether you're in for a good sweat or you just want to explore the easy-to-reach petroglyphs - ancient art on the rocks - you will be surrounded by towering saguaros that are native only to the Northern Sonoran Desert.
--Jen Nilsson, The Lens of Jen
*Shenandoah National Park, VA*
Famous Appalachian trail goes through the gorgeous range of Blue Ridge mountains where Shenandoah National Park is nested. Just 2 hours drive from Washington D.C. Shenandoah National Park provides magnificent views and serves as an escape from big city life.
My first visit to the park started with a drive along scenic Skyline Drive. Skyline Drive, no doubt, is the best way to explore the park. Skyline Drive crosses the Shenandoah National Park, making it possible to drive through the park, visit scenic viewpoints and enjoy the breathtaking peaks of Blue Ridge Mountains.
What I like about Shenandoah National Park is that it can be as adventurous as you like and as lazy as you wish. You can hike several miles of advanced hikes that require proper preparation and gear. Or you can stroll through paved trails and drink coffee at the coffee bar with mountain views. Either way, the Shenandoah National Park will amaze you. From numerous hikes along the Appalachian trail to waterfalls and local cuisine, Shenandoah National Park is worth being on the Wanderlust of the best National Parks in the USA.
Of course, Shenandoah National Park rests in the shadow of famous National Parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone National Park. But it has its own charm and will stay in your heart as a peaceful mountain getaway.
--Maria Potehina, Call It Adventure
My favorite national park is Arches in Utah. Spectacular scenery, various hiking options, both long and short, amazing sunsets, deep orange colors and not crowded at all . Also great for kids - we have visited several times with our kids from the time they were less than five years old and most arches can be easily hiked with kids and they do enjoy the opportunity to roam, jump and explore. The hike to Delicate Arch is not for the faint of heart (my fear of heights had me walking sideways at snail speed, so I do not have to look into the open abyss on one side of the narrow path) but the view from the top at sunset is one of a kind.
I'd love to share a bit about Olympic National Park. As a born and raised Seattleite (married to a park brat who was raised in yellowstone) I've been going to Olympic as long as I can remember. I've even worked as a tour guide there!
Olympic is a unique park because it has so many different ecosystems. You can go from tidepooling on a remote and rugged beach to an alpine hike on snow in the same day. You can hike for miles through an ancient old growth forest and later soak in a hot springs. There's just so much ecological diversity, it's completely mind blowing. Even though it's one of the most visited parks, it's pretty easy to get away from crowds by hiking a short distance or going to lesser known areas of the park.
--Jennie Flaming, Ordinary Adventures
My recommendation: North Cascades National Park, Washington
When people in the United States want to see glaciers, they understandably go to Glacier National Park. But while North Cascades manages to fly under the radar, it has more glaciers than any other National Park (excluding Alaska), topping out at over 300 (nearly ten times more than Glacier). On top of that it’s some of the most wild and rugged country left in the United States, so if you’re into real adventure, this is the park for you. An extremely expansive alpine wilderness (it’s referred to as the American Alps), it remains relatively untouched by humanity. And with it’s visitor numbers at a tiny fraction of some of the more popular parks, you can really appreciate the environment in its natural glory.
The park is home to abundant wildlife including black bears, wolves, moose, and mountain goats, marmots, and more, and the summer wildflower blooms are spectacular. It takes a bit of hiking to see the real gems of the park (such as the absolutely iconic Johannesburg Mountain Ridgeline, home to several glaciers and viewed best from the Cascade Pass trail). But once you get to experience it, you’ll wonder how you’d never heard about it before. It feels more wild than any other National Park I’ve been to, and It’s truly some of the most breathtakingly beautiful land in the United States.
--Brady Fraser, Two Trailbirds
One of my favorite national parks in the United States is the Channel Islands National Park, a group of islands located off the coast of Central California.
It’s one of the least visited national parks in America because of its remote location, however, it’s also one of the most beautiful national parks in the country that offers miles of rugged coastline and pristine beaches. If you consider yourself an outdoorsman (outdoorswoman), this place is for you!
Nicknamed “The Galapagos of Central America,” Channel Islands is home to many endemic species that can’t found anywhere else in the world. If you are lucky, you will be able to spot some of the critters such as the island deer mouse, or the island fox and see one of the most rare pine species in the world called Torrey Pines.
The Channel Islands National Park can be accessed via a boat from Ventura, California. It’s a place where you can relax, enjoy the solitude and camp under the clear dark skies at night. Most people come here to enjoy kayaking in the clear blue Pacific waters and explore the beautiful hiking trails.
--Daria Bac, The Discovery Nut
Glacier National Park is a fantastic place to explore for a summer family vacation or for those looking for a real backcountry hiking adventure. The Park has over 700 miles of trails, 25 glaciers, specular vistas of the Rocky Mountains and hundreds of species of fauna and flora to observe and enjoy. Because there are so many trails the Park offers a wide variety of hiking options, from short day hikes to extended backpacking trips. The best time to visit Glacier National Park is during the peak season months of July and August. Although it is busier at this time, the benefit is that most facilities and shuttle services are open. In terms of my favourite hike I would have to say the Highline Trail, which is a 11.4 mile day hike that offers stunning views of the Rockies. It is suitable for all family members and fitness levels, and provides a really great introduction to Glacier NP.
--Mark Whitman, Mountain IQ
I wanted to share with you one of my favorite National Parks to visit, the South Dakota Badlands.
I love this park because it’s one of the lesser-known destinations which means you won’t be fighting crowds the whole time you’re there. We traveled to the Badlands during late spring which is when the first newborn bison calves start roaming. We were able to see hundreds of bison and their babies trekking right beside our car. We even had to stop a few times while they crossed the road!
One of the cool things about the Badlands is that you can go camping inside the park for free. The Sage Creek campground is on the north end of the park and even though it doesn’t have many amenities, you can see the bison wandering right from your campsite. We loved being able to wake up in the morning and take a hike right from the campsite.
--Kate Moore, Parked In Paradise
Choosing a favorite is so tough. Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite, Acadia, Zion, Joshua Tree, and on and on.
But if forced to, I have to go with Everglades National Park in South Florida. First of all, my grandparents lived there for over 25 years. YES, IN the Everglades. So, I can claim a more intimate look than most others can. In addition to the remarkable environment (the only such habitat in the world) and history, the Everglades is the only place on Earth where alligators and crocodiles live together. Add in sharks, manatees, dolphins, and beautiful migrating birds such as rosette spoonbills, and it is truly a world class environ.
--Charles McCool, McCool Travel
After embarking on my 30+ day road trip around the United States, I knew I wanted to explore as much as this country had to offer. This meant squeezing in as many National Parks as possible. One in particular that stood out to me (and is definitely underrated) would be Grand Tetons National Park! Located at the foot of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, this place incredible. The sprawling landscapes, the mountain views, the wildlife; all of it just takes your breath away. I would recommend this park to anyone looking for a less touristy adventure. Someone who wants to immerse themselves in nature and it's beauty. My favorite part was hiking & the weather. Even in mid-June, the temperature was around 60 degrees and sunny, making it the perfect combination for hiking for miles. A pro tip would be to buy America The Beautiful Pass if you plan on visiting multiple National Parks, try to explore in the early morning or late afternoon, and always stay hydrated!
--Tatum Skipper, Bonvoyage Babes
Arches National Park in Utah is my favorite park. I recommend everyone visit the park at least once in their life. I’ve been there three times and can’t wait to go back. I like it because it is totally unique from any other place in the world. The arches and other rock formations are totally different than anything else you will see in the world. I found the arches to be beautiful. Knowing they were carved from nature by wind, water and erosion
No matter what your physical abilities, you can enjoy the park. The majority of sites are visible from the paved road and pull-off parking places. For an up-close and personal look at the arches and rock formations, there are hiking trails of varying levels of difficulty. Each trail is marked with level of difficulty and length. The most famous arch, “Delicate Arch” is not visible from the road. It is a half-mile walk to the first viewpoint, but it is fairly flat. It is a 3-mile mostly uphill hike to get to the arch.
Our first visit was cut short by a windstorm kicked up that blinded and pelted the sandstone against us. We had to cover as much of our body as possible and make our way back to the parking area. While inconvenient, it added to the adventure. We returned the next day when the weather was beautiful and hiked to the various formations.
Arches is a red-rock wonderland full of unique formations that will amaze you. It should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit Arches National Park.
--Robin O’Neal Smith, RobinOnealSmith.com
Death Valley is our favorite park. It checked all the boxes for the wow factor, the fun factor, and the crowd factor. There are so many different landscapes when you get out there, from the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes to Badwater Basin's salt flats (the lowest point in North America) to the multi-colored mountains of Artist’s Palette. While there aren't as many prescribed activities to do and outfitters supplying gear, there's still a lot to enjoy. We hiked a lot and enjoyed stargazing after dark, but it's also a great place for biking and horseback riding. It's also huge and in the middle of nowhere, so it's easy to get away from other tourists whenever you want.
--Lauren Keys, Trip Of A Lifestyle
The best national park in the US is Bryce – the canyon of thousands of colors, the home to Magi, Sorcerers and Wizards. The positive healing energy of the place is literally off the charts. It is amazing. This place is unique, mystical. It is magical.
Local shamans guard the sacred underground water. It is not only alive, it possesses magical properties. This water changes perception and consciousness. Unsuspecting visitors can only catch a glimpse of the ever-altering perception of the landscape by looking at the hoodoos (rock formations) during different times of the day. They change their color from grey to blue to pink to orange, and then to yellow, red and purple. When the sun shines upon the rocks, they seem transparent. The canyon sings, and the song changes as the colors change. It sings of children of the Sun and the Wind.
As you walk along the canyons, not only the colors and the sounds change, the pressure, the temperature and the weather changes too. I started one day at the top of the canyon. It was a cold, crisp morning. As I kept walking down, it started to rain heavily. I kept walking, wet to the bones. It suddenly became dry and very hot. Then windy and chilly. The canyon was playing with me, testing my determination and perseverance. It doesn’t share its secrets freely. You have to earn its trust. Then you are initiated into the family of the Magi that know the secrets of altering time and space.
The Paiute Indians have a legend that Bryce used to be a city inhabited by Legend People. They were creatures who could make themselves look like animals or like people. They were turned to stone by the powerful god Coyote as a punishment for making him angry. What did they do to make him angry? This part of the story is not known. There are several versions, all very different from each other. Maybe you will be the one to find out.
I sat down on a rock bench, closed my eyes and began meditating. I tuned in to the whisper of the rocks, of the rock beings. They talked. They said, “People, do you know how happy you are? You can move! You can travel from place to place. This alone is enough for you to be happy beyond measure for the rest of your life. We are jealous of you, people. You are the lucky ones, although many of you don’t understand this. Yet try it: stand next to us and keep standing as long as you can. Don’t move, stand completely motionless, as if you are rooted to the ground. How long will you be able to stand like this? One day? What about one night? The wind will blow from all directions. The rain will pour from above. The heat will try to reduce you to ashes. Yet you stand, not moving. Yet you stand, completely motionless.. Breathe in, breathe out. The rocks also have a soul. The rocks also want to move. Those rocks that fall down the mountains – they are the lucky ones. They are able to move even if only for several minutes during all their long lives. In this they will gather many fleeting impressions to remember for the rest of their lives – for the next few million years. The rocks do not complain--no, they do not. They are surprised at how many of us don’t understand happiness. The stones are alive and are able to read the thoughts of all people walking next to them. “Look, here comes a gloomy person. We are trying to cheer him up, to transfer our positive energy to him but his head is so filled with his gloomy thoughts that he is not able to hear us. You can hear us because you are listening to us. A rare person is listening to us. Yet we are missing the communication with people. Come here often, listen to us, ask us about anything you wish. And tell us what you’ve seen that is beautiful in your life of movement. You don’t even have to say a word. Simply imagine beautiful places in nature. The more beautiful your thoughts are, the happier we will become in our soul, the more joyful our rocky life will be. Come here often: we’ll share our strong, powerful energy with you. We’ll share our secrets.”
After this extraordinary communication with the rocks, I took a hike on one of Bryce’s trails. I looked around paying attention to the unusual shapes of the rocks. I saw people and animals; giants and dwarfs; praying nuns and queens; castles and houses; mushrooms and candles. Suddenly, I saw the rocks that looked like the Tower Bridge in London. I could not believe my eyes. I was in a playground and enjoying the way the Universe was playing with me. How did those stones experience me and my energy? I wondered. I walked barefoot to feel the soul of the place. I slowed down to have conversations with everything that was around me. After the trip I realized that the whole world around me is alive.
--Milana Perepyolkina, Gypsy Energy Secrets
My favorite National Park that I would recommend people visit is Glacier National Park. First off, I think it's the most beautiful National Park in the lower 48 states. Between the towering granite peaks and crystal clear alpine lakes, there's always something to look at, most of all, the more than thirty-five named glaciers that give the park its name. I loved Glacier so much that I moved to Whitefish, Montana, to be a professional skier.
When I lived in Whitefish, I would take off to Glacier NP a hike as often as I could. Melting snow filled the park with waterfalls, and I loved biking the Going to the Sun Road before it was open for cars. Summer brought fields of wildflowers and mountain goats. With autumn came huckleberries and bears foraging before their long winter nap. Winter bought a fresh blanket of snow, the lifeblood for the glaciers themselves. Glacier National Park is a symphony of landscape and mountains, wildlife and wildflowers playing out in perfect harmony.
--Jenn and Ed Coleman, Coleman Concierge
ULTIMATE #1: *Glacier National Park*. It's the closest thing (in the continental US) that we have to Banff-like beauty. As a mountain lover this is my paradise. I love the wildlife, the accessibility, the beautiful glaciers, and the hikes- there are so many trails! Oh, and of course, Going to the Sun Road is pretty cool as is the history of how it was made. I only added it to my 2018 roadtrip as a quick drive through, I'd read about it in National Geographic, but due to snow I could not drive the route and had to stop at Avalanche campground- everything beyond this point was closed off. I wasn't dressed for the weather, but I was adamant on getting out and hiking. So I quickly found a nearby trail and hiked to Avalanche Lake. It was absolutely stunning, the hike and the lake with those famous colorful stones and beyond all this... a glacier back drop and frozen waterfalls. I was staying in White Fish that trip- which is also a cute Montana town, I'd recommend checking out. Anyway, I knew I had to get back, so I did as soon as I got back from Asia. It was the end of summer 2019 and I needed to get there before the road would close. I made it!! This time I stayed for a week and camped at Avalanche campgrounds. I did quite a few hikes, I saw a grizzly, I drove Going to the Sun Road at least a dozen times, and hopped on a sunset boat tour on Lake McDonald. I plan to get back there soon, hopefully before it snows again.
After being to all 50 states, and almost every national park in the continental US, Montana has become my favorite state because of Glacier; it is just phenomenal.
--Kaitlin Ray, lifewithinmylens.com
Zion is one of our favorite National Parks in the USA! The tall canyon walls of Zion eroded over many years by the North Fork of the Virgin River. Over the years, the Virgin River is still causing changes to the park due to flash floods. When entering into Zion, you will be at the bottom of the canyon walls, therefore, most hikes will either be through the canyon walls or hiking up into a canyon.
There is so much to explore in the park, that we feel you need multiple days. From exploring the backcountry to hiking up to the rim, to hiking one of the most dangerous hikes in the U.S., this place has something special. If you aren’t into hiking, there is a beautiful scenic drive through the park, where a bus will bring you from one stop to the next. People are required to take the shuttle bus when it’s operating due to the high volume of people. There is also another scenic drive that goes outside the park where you can go through man-made tunnels made many years ago (this part you will need your own vehicle for). Some of our favorite hikes are: The Subway, The Narrows, Observation Point and Angel's Landing.
--Jake & Emily, tworoamingsouls.com
*Sequoia National Park*
Often overshadowed by its more famous northerly companion, Yosemite, Sequoia National Park in California is also VERY worth a trip. As its name suggests, its is full of massive sequoia trees - including *the largest tree in the world*. Yep, you read that right - *General Sherman* is the tree with the highest mass in the entire world - and itt measures over 100ft of circumference.
Sequoia National Park as lots of gorgeous walks through these incredible trees, and also some longer proper hikes where you can view more of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges. One of the most popular short hikes to Moro Rock involves a staircase carved into the granite outcroppings, and has a view of Mt Whitney (the tallest mountain in the lower 48).
--Kimmie Conner, Adventures & Sunsets Blog
By far, my most favourite and frequently visited US National Park is Acadia. Located in the Northeastern part of the country in Maine, Acadia is the ultimate for hiking (Check out the Beehive Trail), biking and spending time on the rugged Maine coast surrounded by beautiful granite rocks and the Atlantic Ocean. In my humble opinion, the all time best experience to have in Acadia National Park is watching the sunrise over Frenchman Bay from Cadillac Mountain. Some say this is the first place the sunrise appears in the US. I have experienced this and I have to say there’s nothing like watching the pink, purple and orange hues spread across the Bay and small town of Bar Harbor. It is unforgettable.
--Hillary N, Hillary Newman Photography
My wife and I recently visited White Sands National Park, America’s 62nd and newest national park in 2019 (formerly known as White Sands National Monument). No it's not a beach! It is a playground for campers, history buffs and nature-lovers. The park offers scenery unlike that of anywhere else in the country, making it an exciting new addition to the national park system.
While White Sands has excellent hiking opportunities, there is one particularly unique activity that you cannot leave without trying: sledding. There are endless dunes at White Sands at various heights. Most dunes are around 30 feet tall, but some in the park can be as tall as 60 or even 100 feet. These smooth hills and cliff faces are a great adrenaline rush for all ages. You can rent sleds at the visitor center or bring your own. Ask a park ranger for the best sledding tips.
--David Kosofsky, Go RV Rentals
Grand Canyon National Park
Experiencing the Grand Canyon from a birds eye view is an incredible sight to behold. Whizzing above in a helicopter, the spectacular views en route are mesmerising. Passing the world-famous Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel which stretches 1,224 feet across the Black Canyon, panoramic views of Grand Wash Cliffs and the deep blue of Lake Mead against the arid Mojave desert.
The sheer immensity approaching Grand Canyon West is breathtaking. Measuring 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and more than a mile deep the gargantuan dimensions are unbelievable. Carved out by the mighty Colorado river over the past six million years or so, it reveals the earth’s history layer by layer. Landing 4,000 feet below the rim of the Canyon, followed by enjoying a champagne lunch is a memory of a lifetime.
--Sima Sthanakiya, thecuriouspixie.co.uk
My family's favorite national park is usually the last one we visited. However, I can talk for hours about Yosemite National Park. I would recommend spending a week at Yosemite. There is so much to do there, you can keep discovering new things over a lifetime. When you embrace Yosemite fully, you will feel like you stepped back into history seeing the same views seen by notables such as John Muir, President Theodore Roosevelt and Ansel Adams. If you stay in Curry Village, you can imagine being a tourist at the turn of the century gathering there in the evening to watch the firefall.
One highlight of our trip was hiking to Vernal and Nevada Falls. This is a very popular hike, but it was the first long and strenuous hike our kids did on their own. If ever there was a time to test their limits, this was it. We hiked up the Mist Trail and down the John Muir Trail. In the spring time you will get wet, so be prepared.
My kids favorite thing to do was to bike ride around Yosemite Valley. With the crowds, traveling on two wheels is a nice way to travel and stop to explore at your leisure. Some places off the beaten path that we enjoyed discovering by bike were the The Fen at Happy Isles and having a relaxing picnic at the Housekeeping Campground.
Finally, a visit to Yosemite is not complete without seeing musician and historian Tom Bopp perform at the Wawona Hotel. He has the best voice and is an amazing story teller. You will feel like you are stepping back in time.
I have an 8-part podcast series on Yosemite. It is like having a ranger in your pocket. If you are lucky, you may get to attend a ranger program in person with Ranger Shelton Johnson or Ranger Erik Westerlund.
Our family fell in love with Yosemite, we hope to visit it in every season. Even winter has so much to offer.
--Danielle Jacobs-Erwin, Everybody's National Parks
Bryce Canyon National Park
I personally would like to direct your attention to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is quite possibly the most overlooked of the five Utah parks. Bryce Canyon is a geographical wonder full of rich red rock amphitheaters. As someone who grew up in Utah and has been a fairly avid visitor of the national parks, both in and out of state, there is nowhere quite like Bryce Canyon.
Why Bryce Canyon
I also represent Ruby's Inn, a historical hotel at the gate of Bryce Canyon National Park. Their story is interwoven with Bryce Canyon and how this park is one of the best. For a bit of background, Reuben (Ruby) Syrett took his family to see a “hole-in-the-ground” in 1916. That “hole” was Bryce Canyon before it was made into a national park. Ruby fell in love with the wonders of Bryce Canyon, so much so, that he and his family created Ruby’s Inn to share their passion for this unique canyon with everyone. The Syrett family continues to share the love of Bryce Canyon that Ruby did. The beauty it offers is quite literally unlike any other in the world.
Bryce Canyon’s Influence
Many of the activities Ruby’s Inn offers are entirely based around sharing Bryce Canyon National Park in new ways to every visitor who comes through their doors. They share breathtaking views at Sunrise and Sunset point as they lead people around the rim on horseback. Scenic flights are available so they can share every outstanding angle of the amphitheaters below. Bryce Canyon National Park is a crowning jewel in Southern Utah. It’s existence changed the entire course of a family for generations, and has continued to enchant visitors from all over.
--Natasha Lye, Ruby's Inn
I've been to 34 National Parks all over this beautiful country, and having a favorite would be like choosing a favorite child, and that's not easy to do. White Sands, though, has caught my heart. As one of the newest National Parks, White Sands National Park doesn't disappoint. Nestled between Las Cruces and Alamogordo New Mexico and about 75 miles north of El Paso TX, 275 square miles of white gypsum sands mound up in the desert driven by the wind. As a photographer, what it has to offer is unique. The light at the dunes is stunning and ever-changing, and it picks up glimmers from the gypsum crystals and reflecting them in the sun. It is almost as if the dunes are glowing with twinkles of reflective light. In the evening, the sunsets glow against the purity of the dunes also offers a unique contrast. There's a peaceful silence there. Even with families picnicking or sand sledding down the tallest dunes of 60 feet high, you need only to walk a little way before you feel the solitude.
The Dune drive is the main road and only road through the park and gradually loops around. One minute you are on asphalt, and then you are driving on the white gypsum sand. It's a breathtaking drive with dunes on both sides of you.
White Sands is expansive, and much is untouched. There are five designated trails and limited backcountry permits available. The Alkali Flat trail takes you into the interior of the dunes where you can camp, and there is perhaps no better park to watch a meteor shower while camping out under the stary New Mexico skies. Everything about White Sands National Park is unique and mysterious. The plants, the history, and particular endemic species of animals is a different kind of National Park experience. The temptation and curiosity can get the best of you when you are hiking. You know it might look the same, but you still can't help to keep walking up and over to see what's over the next hill.
--Darlene Sours, DlouisePhotography.com
The US has some wonderful National Parks, but this one is like no other. With 95% of it under water, and 10,000 years of history that includes Indians, pirates, shipwrecks, and coral reef, Biscayne National Park is my favorite National Park in the US.
Located less than 30 minutes south of Miami, this is an eco-adventure land where visitors can boat, kayak, dive, fish, paddle, and snorkel.
Having grown up in South Florida, visiting the park and boating from here left me with great memories.
It wasn't until I was an adult, however, that I saw the park from under water. With surprisingly shallow and clear water, Biscayne National Park is an excellent spot for beginners to snorkel. Plus, as they say, the view is amazing.
On land, visitors can also enjoy a nature trail, museum, gift shop, and fruit and spice park featuring over 500 exotic fruits and herbs.
I've seen a lot of national parks. Actually, I now live just two hours from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is wonderful in it's own way.
But if you're looking for a national park that stands apart from the rest, which I should mention is free to enter, and only $25 a night to camp, and where in 30 minutes you can be to a cosmopolitan international city, basking in the sun on famed beaches where Art Deco buildings line the street, and enjoying the life and culture of historic neighborhoods, be sure to visit Biscayne National Park.
--Susan Dejanovic, @baggageandbubbly on Instagram
BTW, if you can’t visit some of these great national parks, check out some virtual tours of national parks in the US. Not really a substitute for actually going to them, but it may at least scratch the itch a little bit. 🙂